Pueblo, CO: The Home of Heroes
Pueblo veterans receive the services and support they need to thrive in their next chapter.
When U.S. Army veteran Cassime Joseph moved from Texas to Pueblo, he found all kinds of resources to help smooth his transition to civilian life. From affordable housing to abundant career opportunities and a strong support network for veterans, Pueblo “checked all the boxes,” says Joseph, who is studying multimedia journalism at Colorado State University Pueblo.
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A Voice for Veterans
He also hosts a morning radio show and the weekly “Veterans Voice” podcast to help fellow veterans feel at home in Pueblo and to be aware of the numerous resources available.
“Veterans Voice” podcast
Joseph also supports military-connected students by serving as president of his school’s chapter of Student Veterans of America.
“I’m always looking for ways to promote veterans,” he says. “The Pueblo community helped me out so much when I moved here, and I want to be able to give back.”
The camaraderie and support of veterans is palpable in Pueblo, which has a deep-rooted military history that inspired its moniker as the “Home of Heroes.”
Pueblo’s veteran-friendly reputation was bolstered even further in December 2021 when Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center opened a location in Pueblo to serve the 14,000 veterans who live in the region with programs that range from housing and food aid to counseling services and veteran career coaching.
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Nearby Colorado Springs is home to a number of military installations, so it’s no surprise so many veterans choose to live in Pueblo. But the Southern Colorado city has its own unique military history and lots of patriotic pride.
Pueblo made a great contribution to World War II efforts as the Colorado Fuel & Iron steelworks produced barbed wire, railroad rails, iron and steel bars, and more for military operations. Not far from the city, U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot is one of two remaining Army installations in the United States that safely stores chemical weapons.
Did You know?
You may be curious about how Pueblo became known as the “Home of Heroes.” In 1953, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower presented Raymond G. “Jerry” Murphy with his Medal of Honor, he remarked: “What is it … something in the water out there in Pueblo? All you guys turn out to be heroes!”
Colorado Rep. Scott McInnis spoke to Congress about the uniqueness of a city Pueblo’s size having a record four recipients of the Medal of Honor who claimed Pueblo as their hometown. The speech, which became a part of the Congressional Record, prompted the city to adopt the name “Home of Heroes.”
Today, Pueblo has a memorial with four large bronze statues to represent the city’s four Medal of Honor recipients. The display also includes large granite plaques with the names of all Medal of Honor recipients since the award was conceived.
Locals and visitors can learn more about Pueblo’s military history at the Medal of Honor Information Center at the Pueblo Convention Center, which has the recipients’ uniform jackets on display as part of the exhibit.
Serving Veterans in Pueblo
Recognizing that Pueblo had a growing population of underserved military, veterans and their families, Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center in 2021 expanded to the city, taking up a suite of offices within the St. Mary-Corwin Hospital.
Sal Katz, who retired as a command sergeant major after serving for more than 32 years in the U.S. Army, took on a role as the director of the Mt. Carmel Pueblo location.
The Pueblo outpost offers similar services to the one in Colorado Springs, including homeless veteran outreach, health and wellness programs, employment workshops and military career transition assistance.
The center also connects with the community through food distributions at the Pueblo and Colorado Springs locations, including a partnership with grocery chain Safeway to distribute Thanksgiving meals to 1,200 local military and veteran families.
Veterans, Katz says, make up about 10% of Pueblo’s population. The veterans service center is a beacon of support within the community, supporting local military, veterans and their families.
“We love our veterans, and we want them to have their best possible lives here,” Katz says.
Speaking of Heroes: These Keep the City Safe
The Pueblo Police Department is one of the most highly regarded and advanced departments in Colorado and prides itself on providing more training than any other department in the state.
“We like to invest in our officers, training, equipment and software to make our department more efficient, and make the difficult job of being a police officer a little easier,” says Pueblo Police Chief Steven “Chris” Noeller.
That investment in the department is largely favored by Pueblo residents. In November 2022, residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of a five-year extension of a police safety sales tax to continue to provide training and equipment funding for the Pueblo PD.
One of the department’s latest training initiatives is called ABLE, or Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement, a program developed by Georgetown University and backed by the NAACP. ABLE encourages an officer to intervene when a troublesome issue arises where someone should take action.
“This stems from the George Floyd choking death incident (in Minneapolis in 2020) – you had three officers just standing around, not knowing if they should get involved or not,” Noeller says. “Cops are no different than anyone else. ABLE trains cops to know when to step in during misconduct situations.”
Noeller adds that the Pueblo PD runs an on-site academy where officers can potentially fail in training and learn from their mistakes instead of having adverse consequences if they were in a similar situation with the public.
Training at the Pueblo academy lasts 26 weeks, compared to 16 weeks at most academies around the U.S., Noeller says. The department is looking to hire 31 more officers, Noeller says, with starting pay at $58,137, with full benefits.
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Also serving the community is the Pueblo Fire Department, which has its own on-site training academy. The Pueblo FD has a training tower, upgraded burn room and its own certified trainers. The department recently added another fire inspector and a second deputy chief to its staff.
Barb Huber, who has been with the department for 25 years, became chief in 2019. “We are currently upgrading four fire stations and will add an 11th station to serve the west side of Pueblo,” Huber says. “We are also adding two new trucks, and we’re looking into changing our work schedules to 48 hours on and 96 hours off. That schedule allows for bigger rest periods.”
Huber says the addition of Fire Station 11 will add another six firefighters to the workforce, bringing the total to 153.
“Pueblo firefighters make excellent pay, with the mayor and council recently approving a wage increase to keep us competitive with all of the Front Range,” she says. “Pueblo is a great community for us to serve.”
– Staff writer Kevin Litwin contributed to this article.
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